radical books wanted
January 29, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for book suggestions for a radical reading group.

Hi everyone -
I'm thinking about starting a reading group focusing on radical subjects such as anarchism, deep ecology, questioning technology, radical history, art, literature, etc. I'm looking for suggestions of good books that fall into this territory. NOT looking for rants, screeds, ludicrous claims, etc. I want to build a solid library of well-written books that will leave reading group members educated rather than indoctrinated. Thanks - Alan
posted by arcadia to Education (24 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't got around to reading it myself, but Instead of a Book by Benjamin Tucker is often recommended on these sorts of reading lists.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:43 PM on January 29, 2008

You may want to check out the works of noted Luddite/scholar, Kirkpatrick Sale. I am currently reading Human Scale, which has been suggested to me many times, and has been said to have a life-changing effect on more than one of its readers [I didn't want to link to Amazon but what I have heard about this book echoes most of these reviews].
posted by rokabiri at 12:56 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse.
posted by mattbucher at 1:11 PM on January 29, 2008

Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed would make a great selection -- it's a thought-provoking integration of theory and practice. It's definitely a substantive book, but it's also clearly written and relatively brief, so it's discussion-friendly for academics and non-academics alike.

For a quick example of Boal's practice, you can read his description of doing "invisible theatre" at a supermarket:
"'What do you mean that you were just doing theatre??? You have created this major disturbance only because you were playing around? You have disturbed the public order at the supermarket where people do their shopping without problems, you have taken up everybody's time, and this was simply a show? Fine. The manager accuses you of incitement to disorder and we, the police, accuse you of having a public performance without permission from the corresponding authority!'

As artists, by abdicating our being "exceptional" and helping the oppressed spectators free themselves from at least their first oppression: that of being spectators. By becoming protagonists, they will be qualified to use the theatre of the oppressed tools in order to make it what it should be, a theatre of liberation."
For more information, you can also check out the International Theatre of the Oppressed Organization, which has background, book recommendations, and a succinct Declaration of Principles.posted by ourobouros at 1:23 PM on January 29, 2008

Mutual Aid, by Piotr Kropotkin
The Lives of Children, by George Dennison
The New Inquisition, by Robert Anton Wilson
Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

Are you interested in fiction? I have a host of other suggestions, if so. (Ishmael has a thin frame of fiction, but is chiefly an extended essay.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:26 PM on January 29, 2008

Tell us whether you want fiction, nonfiction, or both!
Since you didn't specify, I'm only going to recommend science fiction: first, check out The Dispossed; in fact, pretty much everything else by Ursula Le Guin is probably worth your time. Also consider Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler,Stanisław Lem, and (probably my personal favorite) Samuel Delaney.
posted by pullayup at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2008

You also might be interested in China Miéville's list, though I can't personally vouch for most of the titles he includes.
posted by pullayup at 1:36 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Marcuse book is a classic. I'd also read Anti-Oedipus.
posted by rottytooth at 1:37 PM on January 29, 2008

A great starting point would be Verso's new Revolutions series, which repackages a well-selected group of classic left texts with new introductions.

You'll want to read some Marx at some point – pick up a copy of The Marx-Engels Reader, flip through, and see what interests you most.

Hardt and Negri's Empire and Multitude are popular reading-group choices but will need excerpting, as both are massive texts. Crimethinc's Days of War, Nights of Love might be fun.

There are many other possibilities within the myriad fields you mentioned, so you might get better suggestions if you narrow the focus and indicate some more specific topics that interest your group.
posted by RogerB at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2008

i've never read it, but i assume the book that got salman rushdie death threats is pretty radical.
posted by kidsleepy at 2:11 PM on January 29, 2008

Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky.
posted by atchafalaya at 2:18 PM on January 29, 2008

Death in the Haymarket by James Green
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:54 PM on January 29, 2008

Zed_Lopez beat me to it, but I would second Daniel Quinn's Ishmael.

Also, to add to your growing list of fiction (yeah I know you're probably more interested in nonfiction), I have to suggest Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
posted by mehum at 3:42 PM on January 29, 2008

Miranda Joseph's Against the Romance of Community
posted by Sara Anne at 4:14 PM on January 29, 2008

Derrick Jensen's Culture of Make Believe and other recent books.
posted by madstop1 at 4:21 PM on January 29, 2008

Patterns of Anarchy, ed. Leonard I. Krimerman and Lewis Parry.

Women of Ideas and Man Made Language by Dale Spender.

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer.

The Female Man
by Joanna Russ.
posted by languagehat at 5:23 PM on January 29, 2008

funny, I've never read it either, but I've always thought that The Satanic Verses isn't actually very radical unless you're Muslim and believe that it's sacrilegious.

What about This Bridge Called My Back by Gloria Anzaldua, Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, or Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire?
posted by hue at 5:47 PM on January 29, 2008

Radical primitivism:

Running on Emptiness John Zerzan. It's a well argued set of anti-civilisation essays.
posted by lalochezia at 6:48 PM on January 29, 2008

Eli Clare, Exile and Pride. I don't know that anybody else is writing about class, gender, disability, and queerness the way Clare does. Good stuff--also, for a discussion group, it's essays, which can make for nice one-meeting-sized chunks.
posted by not that girl at 8:31 PM on January 29, 2008

Following pullayup's lead on SF, (well, mostly).

Q by Luther Blisset. For bonus points it's written under a pseudonym covering dozens or hundreds of activists and artists.

Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution SF series is full of radical politics.

Adam Roberts' Salt is also SF heavily featuring anarchism.
posted by Jakey at 2:57 AM on January 30, 2008

You may find Radical Man by Charles Hampden-Turner interesting. It's a dense read, and it's conclusions aren't obvious. It's out of print however.
posted by brandnew at 5:25 PM on January 30, 2008

How about something published by the Prickly Paradigm Press. The authors they publish tend to be anthropologists, but they might fit your criteria. There are a few free PDFs of books for download. I found the one by David Graeber pretty interesting ("Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology").
posted by mariokrat at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2008

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